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ELECTION ISSUE 2
NOV 2007 - FEB 2008
Dr Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn
Election Commission of Thailand
PREPARING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION ELECTION
by Dr Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn
The 2007 Constitution was approved by the Thai people through the national referendum on 19th August this year and has become effective since 24th August.
The Constitution provides constructive impacts on Thai politics in light of the development of democracy in 4 arenas:
First, it protects and promotes the rights and liberties of the Thai people. Such rights and liberties include:
- Rights of labor to receive the security guarantee and welfare;
- Rights in body, mental, and intellectual development of children, youth, and family members;
- Extension of the rights of community and locality;
- Equality of rights between men and women.
Second, it decreases the monopoly of the State’s power and rejects the unfair use of power. We can see that the political public participation has been promoted. The term of the Prime Minister cannot exceed 8 years. The MP election system has been improved; for example: an area of a constituency is bigger allowing good and capable persons to enter into politics; the proportional based election, which divides the country into 8 groups of provinces, prevents density of seats concentrating at only the central part.
Third, it brings to Thai politics transparency and merit by clearly stipulating the Code of Conduct on morality for politicians and state officials.
And, fourth, this Constitution has brought independence, strength, and effectiveness to the inspecting organizations as evidenced by:
- improving the recruitment system in order to get a good and impartial person into the system;
- providing a checks and balance system by decreasing the power of the ECT. Under the new law, after the announcement of election result, the power of the ECT to call for re-election or revocation of voting rights is under the jurisdiction of the Courts of Justice
According to section 296 of the 2007 Constitution, the MP election must be conducted within 90 days since the enforcement of the three organic Acts.
The three organic bills on the Election Commission, the MP Election and the Selection of Senators, and the Political Parties were passed by the National Legislative Assembly the first week of October and became effective the second week of October.
Following that, the cabinet proposed the Royal Decree calling for the general MP election and submit it for the Royal Assent. The Royal Decree, which took effect on October 25, 2007 set the election date for December 23, 2007.
Genuine democratic elections are a requisite condition for democratic governance, because they are the vehicle through which the people of the country freely express their will as to who shall have legitimacy to govern in their name and in their interests. In order to achieve genuine democratic elections, the electoral management body having apparent impartiality and integrity is required.
The current members of the ECT consisting of a team of distinguished former justices, and a public prosecutor, have resolved to restore into this organization, the trust and confidence of the Thai people. The success of the ECT in conducting the national referendum on 19 August 2007 has reflected the ECT’s commitment to uphold the principles of transparency and integrity in the management of democratic elections.
As for the preparation for the upcoming general MP election, the ECT has already begun this massive work as follows:
The ECT has had the important Resolution and Order for preparing the upcoming general MP election including the appointment of the necessary committee; for instance, the Administrative Committee for the Preparation of MP Election having its mandate to determine an action plan, a project, an activity, and a budget in accordance with the ECT policy, action plan, and a timeframe as prescribed by the law. In addition, the ECT appointed the drafting committee for the ECT regulations on the MP election and selection of senators, which was announced on October 24, 2007.
According to the 2007 constitution, the number of MPs consists of 400 members from the constituency basis and 80 members from the proportional basis. The ECT has already drafted the notification of the constituency boundary demarcation. There are tentatively 157 constituencies for 400 MPs of the constituency-based election. The Kingdom of Thailand is divided into 8 groups of provinces for 80 MP of the proportional based election. Each group of province has 10 MP.
Regarding the budget for the upcoming general election, the National Legislative Assembly already approved the Expenditure Budget Act on the fiscal year 2008, which consists of the ECT budget of about 1,900 million baht for conducting the MP election.
An election is a very big event requiring a great number of people to manage it effectively. For the upcoming general MP election, the ECT estimates that there will be approximately 1.3 million persons involved in the election process consisting of:
1) 2,000 ECT officers;
2) 10,000 persons appointed as constituency election commissions, constituency election directors, and staffs;
3) 800,000 persons appointed as polling station committees for 80,000 polling stations;
4) 200,000 security officers;
5) 100,000 officials and employees of government agencies and state enterprises;
6) 200,000 voluntary election observers.
Moreover, the central ECT Office will appoint the 17 teams of committees and sub-committees to work through the election process which include Electoral Equipment Support Sub-Committee, Ballot Papers Transportation Sub-Committee, Data Processing Sub-Committee, Public Relation, Campaign, and Participation Sub-Committee, Voters Facilitation Sub-Committee, Investigation and Adjudication Sub-Committee, Security and Peace Keeping Sub-Committee, Inspection of Electoral Expenditures Sub-Committee, and International Election Observation Sub-Committee.
The ECT has prepared the electoral equipment, e.g. ballot boxes and polling screen, in advance. Moreover, appropriate polling places are surveyed.
Because voting under the 2007 constitution is compulsory, the ECT realizes the need to provide convenience for all Thai eligible. In doing so, the ECT facilitates Thai people living abroad to go to vote by cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 3rd September 2007, there was a meeting between the ECT and the Director-General of Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the preparation of the oversea voting.
With respect to the issue of the international election observation, for the past 9 years, the ECT has had a great pleasure and honor to receive distinguished international observers from many nations. As for the upcoming MP election, the ECT plans to invite and welcome international delegations to observe the election in accordance with the sphere of Thai laws.
Honesty, fairness, knowledge, experience, and strong will of the ECT as well as the capabilities of its officials have contributed the great success to the peaceful outcome of the recent Thai national referendum. Although I am confident in the role of ECT that the upcoming general election will proceed in an honest and fair manner, the ECT has been faced with difficulties in minimizing electoral fraud.
Without public support and participation, of which the constructive role of the media figures prominently, the mission of ECT cannot possibly be achieved. ECT is willing to work with the NGOs and the political parties to make this election as clean as possible. Politicians and all political parties should also improve their qualities and fairness in the electoral contest. They should be encouraged to establish their own ethics and code of conduct for running the election campaign. Voters must also change their voting culture and create a value system in order that the honest and dishonest politicians could be differentiated and only the good ones could be voted into the office on their own merit. •
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